Fairfield University joins WNPR in presenting an exploration of African American storytelling in literature and the arts


 

Discussion of poet Russell Goings' epic Griotsong launches collaboration prior to airing of WNPR Spoken Word program

Image: Russell GoingsFairfield University and WNPR will collaborate on a yearlong symposium on African American narratives expressed in literature, the spoken word and the work of collagist Romare Bearden. The symposium begins with "African American Storytelling: From Griot to Written Word," an exploration of "The Birth of 'The Children of Children Keep Coming: an Epic Griotsong," a poem by Russell Goings. This first of three panels takes place on Thursday, Feb. 18 at 8:00 p.m. in the Multimedia Room of the DiMenna-Nyselius Library at Fairfield University. The presentation, part of Fairfield University's Arts & Minds Season, is free and open to the public.

On Sunday, Feb. 21 at 2:00 p.m., WNPR will air an hour-long audio spoken word performance that delineates and celebrates African American cultural history through a story and song adaptation of Goings' epic poem. Tony Award®-winning actor Brian Stokes Mitchell narrates the WNPR program that celebrates Goings' inspired poem through story and song.

John Dankosky, WNPR's News Director and host of "Where We Live," will moderate the Feb. 18th panel that focuses on Goings' poem, "The Children of Children Keep Coming" and its origins as a poem and as a new art form, the epic Griotsong. The panelists include Russell Goings, the author of the poem, the founder of Essence magazine and the first African American chairman of the Studio Museum of Harlem, Kim Bridgford, professor of English at Fairfield University and Glenn Hinson, associate professor of Folklore and Anthropology at the University of North Carolina. WNPR will record the panel for broadcast on Sunday Feb. 28 at 2:00 p.m. and its affiliate, WVOF will broadcast the program soon after. Fairfield University's M.F.A. Program in Creative Writing sponsors this first panel.

Professor Bridgford, who is a teacher, mentor and friend to Goings, describes his achievement as "a work of grandeur from a Renaissance man. There is a weightiness to the poem, but it also sings, speaking to people from all walks of life."

In her Introduction to the published version of the epic poem, she likens Goings' work to Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass" in that "it reminds us of the necessity of art ... In addition to the compelling story it tells, there is the richness of poetic devices in motion. Close your eyes. Bells are ringing; hands are clapping; feet are stomping."

Goings, a native of Stamford, Conn., was inspired to write through his close friendship with the celebrated African American painter and collagist Romare Bearden. After realizing success in the U.S. Air Force training pilots in escape and evasion, as a professional football player and as the first African American to hold a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, Goings turned to the art of writing and for thirteen years became a kind of medium for the voices of the ancestors as he released those soulful spirits in masterful poetic prose.

As Bridgford notes in her Introduction, "The voices of both real and symbolic characters speak through Goings, who is griot and prophet, a vulnerable naked soul and a writer of the epic ... Some are voices of American icons and some are anonymous ... The poem ripples with the effects of the Million Man March, and with all the painful marches before: the march to freedom, the march to new places in history, the march to keep family together. And during that march ... we hear the soulful notes of jazz and of the blues ... It is a book, it seems, he was destined to write."

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Media Contact: Joan Grant, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2950, jgrant@fairfield.edu

Posted on February 4, 2010

Vol. 42, No. 183